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Criticism of Ursa Major Awards

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Chistopher Bair, proprieter of the PlanetFur website has posted a criticism of the Ursa Major Awards:

"The 2003 Ursa Major Award nominees are out. And 2003 really shows off why these awards are never taken seriously. Nevermind that they're just a website promotion for the future awards (you really see any of the winners putting "Ursa Major Award Winning _blank_" on their publications?), but I'd be surprised if anyone really showed up to the award ceremonies.

Let's point out the big problems, shall we? I've already made a declaration for new categories to make these even remotely worthwhile for the Furry Fandom. The current UM awards present awards (last I checked, just a framed "WINNER" item, no statues, no plaques, nothing that anyone really would want to hang on a wall or put on a shelf) for Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture, TV Series, Novel, Short Story, Other Literary Work, Comic Book, Comic Strip, Fanzine, Published Illustration and Game."

Read the full text at this this link.

Comments

Your rating: None

Is your post complete? It seems truncated and kinda pointless as it sits above.

The UM are a fun and cool idea. They act as a nice publicity vehicle for both the nominees and the winners.

I fail to see any downside to them what so ever. Kudos and Thanks to Fred P. for hosting them.

CYa!
Mako

Your rating: None

I think it was supposed to be an excerpt. To see the full article you have to click on the link.

Your rating: None

Hmm.

One of Bair's criticisms was that the "Reccommended Reading List" seemed to turn into the list of award nominees. Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I've been on the "Reccommended" list three times, and never been nominated for the final award.

Another criticism listed is that no one seems to care about the Ursa Majors. For what it's worth, I thought that this year I might well have been nominated for one of my stories, and I would have _killed_ to get to the con for the final vote had my story made the cut. I quite deliberately wrote that piece for the sole purpose of trying to win an Ursa; it made my week when it ended up on the "Reccommended" list.

_I_ am a furry artist, and _I_ care. Quite a lot, actually.

A third criticism deals with how the awards are divided up. I tend to feel this one may have more merit, but only because the Ursas are such an "omnibus" type of award. In my opinions, artforms as diverse as films, games, and literature deserve to have seperate award-systems put together and administered by seperate organizations.

Should "Best In Show" be eligible for an award? As an author in that collection, maybe I'm prejuduced when I say that it probably should be rcognized. On the one hand, Bair is correct not only about the seeming conflict of interest, but also about how the appearance of impropriety can tarnish the award as a whole. On the other, "Show" is _special_ because it's the very _first_ book of its kind, one that many of us writers hope will be the foundation of a whole new genre of fiction.

If someone asked me to play Solomon on this issue, I'd either make "Show" eligible only for a special non-competitive award, or else have the editor stand aside for a year. Either, I beleive, would constitute fair play.

In my mind, the Ursas are a major service to the fandom and will hopefully someday grow to be something as integral to furrydom as the Hugos are to SF. Can they be improved? Yes, I do think so. However, nothing ever _begins_ perfect, and I think Bair's overall tone was _much_too harsh.

Having been on the "Reccommended" list three times is one of the highlights of my life. (Yes, my life probably _is_ a rather weak and pathetic thing, thank you very much. But that's my business, not yours.) People _do_ care about the Ursas, and I am definitely one of them.

I'm also damned grateful for these awards. I continue to strive towards the level of artistic excellence required to win.

Rabbit

Your rating: None

>...Also, the awards should not give examples out of only four of the six pieces; get all of them online and linked, or none. It's unfair to the other two pieces, especially since one was an illustration in a program book of a convention!

Full disclosure: I had a lot of thoughts about this article, but first things first. I am the guy who did the con-book entry. I don't know Christopher Blair or Fred Patten personally, but I do happen to know some people nominated and some people involved with the Ursa Awards.

I want to thank the author for his interest in my work and his concern with keeping a level playing field. The thing I must point out is the reason that there was no link to my work is because I didn't put it online. I felt a certain sense of "victory", if you will, in being an amatuer named in the same category as some professional artists. Its my fault its not linked.

Despite the negative tone of the article, the organization took these points into consideration. In this specific case, somone contacted me immediatley for permission to post and link my work. If I had said no, should all of the links in the category be yanked? How would that be fair to the rest who put the interest and effort to post their work?

In the interest of fairness, I also have to say that Fred Patten didn't draw the cover of "Best in Show". (nor did he write the bulk of work inside) Why should Ursula Vernon's work not count because she put it on a particular book cover instead of a wall? I know that if she wins, Fred doesn't get to claim the award.

As a whole, the article not only didn't convince me, it turned me off right from the opening.

"The 2003 Ursa Major Award nominees are out. And 2003 really shows off why these awards are never taken seriously..."

Taken seriously by whom? I've been a musician my entire life and I don't take the Grammys or the American Music Awards seriously; but I know that quite a few people do and it doesn't hurt me in any way that they enjoy these. Most people who take the Ursas seriously will enjoy it for what it is, most other people wouldn't have cared anyway. Why an awards ceremony for a fandom promoting talking animals, etc. should be taken seriously enough to be denounced or put down as fatally flawed seems not only silly to me, the attitude takes a crap on all the people who work their spare time to organize this and the hundreds of fans who took the time to nominate their favorites. Is it going to be perfect? Of course not, who cares!

It's so easy to deconstruct, but it takes so little more to offer solutions instead. Quick example: instead of posting a rant about how terrible and inappropriate it is that Fred has a book nominated in two categories when it comes time to count votes, why not say "Hey Fred, here's $25. You can go hire an accountant with a sense of humor to count some envelopes for about an hour, and then not only be considered more legit for having 'an independent accounting of the ballots' but no one can credibly doubt you if you win your category."

I mean, c'mon everyone, this isn't a presidential ballot recount. Can we all take a breath and get a little perspective?

Your rating: None

The Ursa Major Awards are mostly for the benefit of us, the Furry fans. It is undoubtedly true that the corporate winners in the motion picture, TV, and gaming industry could not care less whether they win our award or not. On the other paw, Amazon.com has just posted a 9-page "So you'd like to ... Support the Ursa Major Awards" guide: http://makeashorterlink.com/?P57F251F7 Two pages explain what Furry fandom and the Awards are, and the other seven list Ursa Major winning and nominated books and DVDs that Amazon.com is selling. Amazon.com's purpose is obviously commercial; but hey, it's a better presentation of Furry fandom to the public than another "Vanity Fair" article or "CSI" dramatization.

I agree that none of the corporate winners are expected to come to C-ACE to accept in person. Even nominees who are in Furry fandom are unlikely to go to the expense of travelling to Ottawa just on the chance that they might win the Award. Any winners who will be at C-ACE will doubtlessly be fans who would attend anyway. But I would expect the fannish winners who cannot be at the presentations to appreciate it when they receive their trophies later in the mail.

The trophy is an illustrated certificate printed on pseudo-parchment in a wood-&-glass frame. It costs about $50, which is not much; but there are ten trophies (one for each category) which is a $500 expense, and that is considerable for a fannish project with no funding except for donations. We will consider a statuette when we can afford something fancier.

In addition to being something positive about Furry fandom to show to the general public, the Awards honor our own creators. They are deliberately open to entries both inside and outside the fandom, to make the point that we are not just patting ourselves on the back. A novel published inside Furry fandom has to compete against novels published by mainstream publishers. An illustration on a Furry fanzine or book cover has to compete against professional cover art. The Awards are also a handy guide to Furry fans who want to know what books and short stories and comic strips are worth reading and where to find them; what movies are worth watching; what games are worth playing; and so on.

The Awards are designed to be FAN-CONTROLLED; not dominated by a panel of experts. There have already been changes during the three years they have been in existence, because of fannish suggestions. The Best Anthropomorphic Comic Book or Strip category was split into two separate categories because of so many criticisms that comic strips and comic books should not have to compete against each other. Best TV Series was renamed Best Dramatic Series to open the category to direct-to-video releases too short to be eligible for the Motion Picture category. Bair's suggested new categories are all possible if enough fans think they are good ideas and should be adopted.

The final ballot is composed of the titles that the fans nominate. If the Best Motion Picture nominees are all animated films, that is what was most popular with the fans who sent in nominations. When we were setting up the Awards, we felt that the surest way to turn fandom AGAINST them would be to try to set limits on what was "good enough" or was "Furry enough". Should vampire or werewolf novels be considered Furry? Let the fans decide!

The accusation of conflict of interest is unfortunately correct. In fact, it is worse than it looks. I am not only the editor of "Best in Show", I am a regular columnist in "Yarf!" and I just became a volunteer staff assistant for Sofawolf Press which publishes "Anthrolations" and "The Art of 'Herbie'". Others on the Awards Committee include Gene Breshears, who has a short story in the Short Fiction category and is the editor/publisher of "Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe" (he also has a story in "Best in Show"); and Chakat Goldfur, the editor/publisher of "South Fur Lands", which is both a Best Fanzine nominee and has one of its covers nominated in the Best Published Illustration category. In practice, practically the only fans interested enough in volunteering to help organize awards for excellence in anthropomorphic literature & art are those who are producing it themselves.

When it became clear that these were getting enough nominations that they might become finalists, the Committee held a serious discussion about whether we should declare these works ineligible because of the conflict of interest situation, or whether we should resign or take a leave of absence from the Committee instead. But the Committee is already understaffed (we are still looking for more volunteers), and if we dropped out, there would not be enough people to do the work. Contrariwise, if we ruled ineligible all of the titles with which we were personally involved, this would eliminate many of the most popular nominees. We lack the money to hire a commercial service to conduct the voting. It was a no-win situation. Going ahead despite the conflict of interest seemed better than either declaring all nominees to which we have personal connections ineligible (which would raise doubts as to whether the remaining nominees really represented the best of the year), or take leaves of absence which would decimate the Committee and result in the Awards grinding to a halt unfinished.

Several of your suggestions have serious difficulties. Have a "real award ceremony" like a dinner? Who will pay for it? How many fans will attend if it costs extra? Hold the ceremony only at a major convention? If the Awards are to be for the best of the previous calendar year, January through December, the only "major" convention available would be Anthrocon in July. There would not be time between the closing of eligibility on December 31 to call for nominations, determine a final ballot, send out the final ballot, count the votes, and have the trophies made in time for presentation at Further Confusion at the end of January, less than a month away. What if Anthrocon does not want to host the Awards presentation?

Doubtlessly the Awards do need to be improved. An Awards discussion group was created last year to get suggestions, but it has been largely inactive. The couple of dozen fans on it seem to only want to read other people's input rather than offering any discussions of their own. If anyone wants to participate in this group, please contact UMA-list@chakatsden.com

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Fred,

After getting a night's sleep and reading your more level headed reply, I'd like to edit away my previous comment, but I don't know how to do that on this board if the option is available. Sorry for adding another bit of noise to what I think should not be such a contentious issue.

To everyone on all sides of this argument, thanks for caring about the fandom and trying your best to promote it.

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an agronomist and Cornwuff from Northern Illinois, interested in sf, homebrewing, photography and running